Thursday, February 15, 2007

Making the "YouTube Birthday Flaming Tribute" Video

I'm not sure how this idea started, but I think I wanted to do another time-lapse with candles. The goal was to create something to get a lot of views and drive traffic to so I could sell more time-lapse software. We set out trying to make something short, funny and different.

Here's the video, if you haven't seen it yet...

and more than you ever wanted to know about making it...

Cynthia scrounged up some table candles and I did some test shots. The cheapest candles looked best by producing copious quantites of molten drippy wax. But, I wanted to make a video using a large number of candles (maximum overkill) and even cheap candles would burn too long (hours) and cost too much (over $1 each).

Since birthday candles were cheap ($.89 per 24 wholesale online) and burned quickly (about 15 minutes max) thoughts turned to doing an "over the top" birthday cake. Kristin discovered that YouTube's second birthday was coming up in mid February. At first I wanted to do some geometric designs with the candles, but Kristin thought it would be cool to reference some of the most popular names on YouTube.

I dropped the idea for a while, but Kristin bought me a test cake at Raley's to get me going again. I did a test to get the right camera setup and quickly discovered that a real cake was not strong enough to stand up to repeated flaming candle formations. The candle wax accumulated in pools on the frosting and the frosting carmelized and burned. This formed a hard wax crust making it difficult to place another round of candles. I tried using an electric drill to pre-drill holes for the candles, but the cake collapsed under the pressure of the drill.

In talking with the cake decorator at the local Raley's supermarket, I learned that they occasionally decorated fake wedding cakes made from styrofoam. I bought some styrofoam sheets, cut them into the shape of a full-sheet cake and covered the top with a 1/4" thick layer of Sculpty clay. The clay would provide a compliant layer to hold the candles and also insulate the underlying foam from the heat. The decorator did a great job with the YouTube logo. When she asked "What is YouTube", I told her and she replied "All I do is eat, sleep, and work so I guess I'm out of touch".

I set the cake up in the barn with lights and two cameras (a 400D and a S3) for the video and a third camera (A620) to document what happened. I made stencil patterns for each director to make it quick and easy to place the candles. The entire shoot took over six hours...

It went pretty well. The cake got so hot the candles were melting before they burned (as in the "Nalts segment"), so I had to spray water on the cake to cool it down between takes. The electric pre-drill technique became necessary as the wax layer accumulated and the Sculpty clay began to bake. It became clear that long names wouldn't work, so I discarded "lonelygirl15", "barats and bareta" and "blendtec". I was a bit worried that the styrofoam would catch fire at the end, but the fire extinquisher worked like a champ.

The hope is to get this video featured, but the odds of that are slim.


quirk said...

I'm a fairly avid PP2 and AE user, and I haven't been able to figure out this plugin. I've installed and reinstalled it a couple times, and neither time has it ended up in my /plugins directory.

I'd suggest some better documentation of the install process, and possibly some text about what the plugin actually does, physically, to the frames. I couldn't find any of that.

Thanks, for what I think could probably be a great plugin, but am yet to know.

tlapse said...

We apologize for the confusion. The current installation program lacks a explanation of where to copy the filter. Please follow the instructions below.
We are working on some better documentation and will be releasing a new beta version soon. It will be a free trial until June 30, 2007.

The installation program copies the GBDeflicker filter into the Granite Bay Software Program Files directory. To use the filter you must copy the file into the plug-in folder of your Adobe software.

Step 1: Locate the GBDeflicker filter on your computer.
C:\Program Files\Granite Bay Software\GBDeflicker

Step 2: Copy it into your Adobe software's plug-in folder....

For After Effects 6 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\After Effects 6.0\Support Files\Plug-ins

For After Effects 6.5 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\After Effects 6.5\Support Files\Plug-ins

For After Effects 7 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects 7.0\Support Files\Plug-ins

For Premiere Pro 1.0 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\Premiere Pro\Plug-ins\AEFilters

For Premiere Pro 1.5 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\Premiere Pro 1.5\Plug-ins\Common\AEFilters

For Premiere Pro 2.0 -> C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0\Plug-ins\Common\AEFilters